The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: MI6 was eternally grateful for my encrypted column

Share
Related Topics
IT'S TIME TO come clean (dread phrase!). Over the years, quite a number of Fleet Street's inkiest scriveners have worked for our intelligence services. I trust I'm giving away no secrets when I reveal that I myself was first approached by MI6 when writing the "Cutting a Dash" column on Man About Town magazine in the early 1950s.

For the next 10 years, I sent my controllers vital messages through the apparently innocent medium of my award-winning column. These would mean little to the general reader, but to the boffins at MI6 they could spell life and death. For instance, if I applied the phrase "highly intelligent" to someone, it really meant "highly suspicious, possibly working for a foreign government, approach with caution, could well be armed". Looking back through my archives I note that I described Mr Rex Harrison, The Queen Mother, Mr (as he then was!) Norman St John Stevas and Miss Kathy Kirby all as "highly intelligent"; frankly, I see no reason to dissent from that judgement with hindsight.

Other codes were more enigmatic - to avoid detection by Moscow. For instance, the term "convivial", as in the sentence: "Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a convivial dinner party thrown by Her Grace the Duchess of Argyll", in fact meant "depraved and perverted", while the term "that most highly civilised of men" as in the sentence, "To Mayfair, where that most highly civilised of men, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, conducted the assembled company through a round of whist", was in fact code for "full Colonel in the KGB". Perhaps I should add at this juncture that "round of whist" is of course official MI6 terminology for a night of communistic sodomy and like-minded debauchery.

I was not operating alone. There were dozens of us. The great Marjorie Proops was a fully paid-up member of MI5; she used her Daily Mirror column to semaphore messages to her controllers for 30 years. "My penis is too small" was code for "A senior Cabinet Minister is a fully paid- up member of the Stasi". In these situations, "honesty is always the best policy" was code for "atomic weapon ready for collection soonest". And "For full address of the Marriage Guidance Council, see foot of page" was code for "The Deputy Features Editor is a CIA plant".

I have no wish to blow the cover of any present operatives, but I should pay tribute to the legendary "Godfrey Smith" (I must protect his real identity), who for the past 45 years has been sending vital information via his Sunday Times column. Adopting the unlikely persona of an overweight buffoon (the real "Godfrey Smith" is a spidery figure), this brilliant strategist uses ingenious codes, understood only by those who have worked 14 hours a day for two years getting to the bottom of his orotund prose style.

In the Smith lexicon, "tingle quotient" translates as "bomb at dawn"; "the immortal Wodehouse" means "have been unmasked: cyanide pills at the ready" and "hats off to the venerable Bard of Avon" means "enemy agent successfully eliminated: proceed as normal". Without "Godfrey Smith", it has been estimated that the Cold War might still be under way. One should remember, too, that on the very same morning that the Berlin Wall finally crumbled, the first paragraph of Smith's column read: "I forget, but was it not the legendary Dr Johnson - he of the Dictionary - who said that there is no tastier beast than a well-roasted hen-pheasant - or was it the irrepressible Muggeridge? A bottle of the fizzy stuff to the reader who can solve this muddlesome teaser!" It is now widely known that this passage was the trigger for the MI6 plants in East Berlin to begin hammering away at the first brick of that historic wall.

Who are my fellow operatives in the field today? My lips are sealed, for I would not wish to see them tied to a metal bed, gagged and tortured. Nevertheless, common courtesy forces me to pay tribute to Mr Richard Littlejohn, for the past 15 years the pseudonym of our mole Boris Spanletin, whose oft-repeated phrase, "You couldn't make it up!" is code for "am at present undergoing homosexual experimentation at the hands of an enemy agent. Please advise". Who knows where our freedom of speech would be without such doughty heroes?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
 

Costa Rica’s wildlife makes me mourn our paradise lost

Michael McCarthy
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence